Suburban runners: Boston not deterring us from Chicago Marathon
Runners vow not to let the Boston Marathon bombings scare them away from the Chicago Marathon on Sunday.
Likewise, Chicago Marathon organizers vow to make the large, world-renowned marathon as safe as possible.
More than a thousand uniformed and undercover officers, along with far more bomb-sniffing dogs than in years past, are expected to mix with the crowd. Federal agents, local police and thousands of surveillance cameras will keep watch.
That satisfies Christine Kickels, 45, of Lemont, who crossed the finish line of the Boston Marathon in April nine minutes before the bombs exploded a block away. She "never had any doubt" she'd run the Chicago Marathon for the fifth time this year.
"I haven't met a soul yet that says, 'I'm not doing it (because of Boston),'" said Kickels, a reference librarian at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn. "If anything, it's spurred more people to run it."
Kickels took comfort in seeing how well the city of Chicago handled security at Lollapallooza and the Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup celebration this summer. That's helping her run Sunday's marathon without any fear, just as she'll be during the Boston Marathon next April.
"You have to put your faith and trust in the runners that are around you, the spectators that are around you, and the marathon organizers," she said.
Officials are mum on security details, but they say officers inside a command post will be monitoring images coming in from helicopters and some of the city's 22,000 cameras, the most extensive surveillance system in the nation.
"We are going to have eyes on the ground on just about every foot of the marathon route," Chicago police Superintendent Garry McCarthy said.
In the wake of the Boston bombings, which killed three people and injured more than 260 others, the Department of Homeland Security designated the marathon a "level two" event, a notch below massive gatherings such as the Super Bowl. That means more federal agents will be at the marathon, with their own high-tech monitoring equipment.
Neither McCarthy nor Frank Benedetto, the special agent in charge of the U.S. Secret Service who is coordinating government agencies assisting Chicago police, would talk about their tactics or strategies.
Melissa Stratton, spokeswoman for Chicago's Office of Emergency Management & Communications, encouraged marathon runners and spectators to sign up at notifychicago.org for texts and email alerts about weather, traffic and safety conditions.
The changes haven't dampened enthusiasm, added Carey Pinkowski, the marathon's race director.
"I was at Boston, and by the time we got off the plane coming home runners were coming up to me, saying, 'We're coming to Chicago, this is not going to deter us,'" he said.
This will be the seventh Chicago Marathon — and 18th marathon — for Danielle Steimel, 44, of Aurora, a member of the Lisle Windrunners. This year's marathon has had more communication from the organizers, heavily emphasizing the new rules and safety measures, such as a requirement that only provided clear plastic bags are allowed for runners along the route.
"The clear bag and picking up your own packet ... those have been at other races since April, so it's not unusual," she said, adding that she has no hesitations about security at Sunday's race. "Runners are a pretty resilient group."
Whether you're one of the 45,000 runners, the 1 million spectators, or just happen to be downtown Sunday morning, here's what you can expect:
If you're running:
• You can't bring bags or backpacks onto the marathon route. Only the race-issued clear plastic drawstring bags will be allowed.
• You have to pick up your own race packet, and present a photo ID.
• You'll enter the race through designated gates and security checkpoints, and then head to your assigned start corral.
• You must wear your race bib, or else face being escorted off the course by security, banned from future marathons, and possibly arrested.
If you're a spectator:
• Police officers will be doing random bag checks along the route.
• Uniformed and plain-clothed police officers will be watching for unattended bags, clothes or packages. Anything found will be taken away and discarded.
• Don't jump onto the course and run a portion of it for fun or to show support. Security will be watching for non-bibbed runners, and anyone found doing it will be escorted off and could face arrest.
• Bomb-sniffing dogs will be walking around.
• You won't be allowed to congregate near the start or finish lines. To watch near the start of the race, go to Columbus Drive and State Street, near Mile 1, or anywhere along State Street, between Grand Avenue and Jackson Boulevard. To watch near the end of the race, go to the Bank of America Cheer Zone at Michigan Avenue and Roosevelt Road.
• Access to the finish line bleachers will be accessible only with tickets issued by charities.
• Meet runners after the race at the Runner Reunite area in Butler Field, located north of Jackson Drive, between Columbus Drive and Lake Shore Drive.
If you happen to be downtown:
• Parking downtown, or near the lakefront, is going to be tough. There will be more "No Parking" zones, and many paid parking lots will fill up early. Consider taking public transportation or factor extra time to drive in and find a legal parking spot.
• Streets will be closed along the race route, and there will be heavy auto and pedestrian traffic along the lake, especially near Grant Park. The route extends north to Addison Street, west to Damen Avenue, and south to 25th Street.
For more information, go to chicagomarathon.com
• The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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